J. P. Sauer and Son is one of Germany’s oldest gunmakers. In 2015 it launched the Sauer 404 bolt-action rifle. But is the new rifle a credit to this historic gunmaker? Rupert Blackwall finds out
The 202, the predecessor of the 404 was launched in 1993 and was seen as one of the best rifles around. However, the new 404 has many mechanical improvements over the 202, one being the safety catch. When you push the safety catch up to make the rifle “live”, you are physically cocking the rifle. Moving the safety catch back again makes the rifle completely safe. It is simple and effective.
One of the other improvements with the 404 are the mounts. On the 202 most people either had Warne mounts or Apel mounts, which are okay but rather clumsy and not always the most reliable. Sauer have developed its own QD mounts, which pull down to the top of the action. I have to say it’s a very neat system and because it’s a saddle mount it’s very solid and reliable, too.
In the UK we are starting to pay attention to rifle fit, but European hunters, especially in Germany, take it very seriously. This is why the 404 range has adjustable triggers, which enable the shooter to set trigger pull and grip length. The trigger can be moved backwards and forwards by three inches. You can also alter the pitch of the trigger by five degrees. This is done by simply using a small Allen key and undoing the screw securing the trigger to the action.
The well-figured stock is also set a little higher, so your comb height is very much set to bring the shooter’s eye in line with the eye-piece of the scope. The majority of hunters only use their open sights as a last resort, if they even use them at all.
Break it down
The rifle can be stripped down by using a key specially built into the fore-end, which also acts as your sling swivel. The key is a great idea and I think it should be fitted to all takedown rifles purely for its simplicity. The key simply pulls out by pressing the button at the end of the sling swivel. On the 404 you still have to remove the fore-end wood to strip and break down the rifle. With the old 202s you had to use a very long key to undo the fore-end wood, which was quite slow and a little awkward. Now, there is a simple hole on the under side of the fore-end where you insert your key and turn it a quarter to release the wood. I have to say, it was not so easy to remove as the fore-end wood fit was quite tight. But I’m sure this is partly due to how new the rifle is.
Once you have removed the fore-end wood this allows you to access to another feature of the 404. All 404s have adjustable trigger weight settings on the side of the action. In fact there are four different settings ranging from 1.2 to 2.7lbs. For most hunters these are perfect trigger pull weight variations.
To remove the barrel you use your key again and undo the three screws underneath the front ring of the action. The bolt will then need to be disengaged from the barrel because it locks into the barrel. I would also advise removing the scope, especially if you have a 56mm objective lens, because when you pull the barrel out it could come in contact with bigger scopes.
Focus on the action
The action is made of aluminium, which makes the rifle lighter. I do have to say I was a little disappointed that there is not a steel action option because an aluminium action does not seem quite right on a Sauer. Admittedly the action is only the carrier of the 6 lug bolt because it locks into the barrel. The finish on the action is some form of powder coating, again time will only tell with how durable it is.
If you wanted a magnum calibre on the old 202 you would have had to change the complete bolt. Sauer changed this on the 404 by simply removing the bolt head. To do this you pull back the catch on the side of the bolt and then push the bolt head down to release it. Once you have done that you can simply insert your new bolt head and magazine depending on calibre.
To remove the stock you will, again, need the key. There is a hole in the pad to unscrew it from the action. Then it simply comes away. Admittedly you will only need to do this when you would want to break the rifle down to go into its travel case, which you would have to buy separately. The 404 is available in five different stock models: three wood stocks from the Elegance range, the Artemis range, which is set up for lady shots and the Classic, which has basic wood. Then there are two polymer synthetic stocks with the Classic XT, which is the more tradition Sauer shaped synthetic stock and then the Synchro XT, which is there thumbhole stock version that also has an adjustable comb.
On the range
I went to the Corinium Rifle Range at Kemble on the Wiltshire/Gloucestershire border where I met range owner Paul Hill to help me get the very best out of the 404.
We shot the 404 rested on bags to remove the human variables of wobble when aiming. Being a German rifle and knowing Sauer regulates it rifles with RWS, I decided to use some of RWS’s latest ammunition – the 136grain Green and 165grain Hit. The rifle was fitted with a Macc Tecc moderator, which was very effective.
The weather was perfect with a little breeze and some cloud, which stopped any heat haze. I shot the rifle at 100 meters first with the RWS 165 grain Hit, which is a full bonded boat-tail bullet. I found the rifle very smooth to shoot. The safety was comfortable to use and the bolt was positive. The trigger pull was crisp and I had set the pull-weight to 1.7lbs. The first group with RWS was very acceptable, measuring 20mm, we then shot the RWS 136 grain Green with two through same hole and one touching measuring 6mm across. I certainly can’t complain by either group, with factory ammunition and a rifle that I am not overly familiar with.
Many improvements on the old Sauer 202
I certainly think there are many improvements over the old 202, with the mounts, adjustable trigger pulls, adjustable trigger, safety catch, magazine lock and the key. The stock is set up well for use with a scope, but I do have a couple of small gripes about the aluminium action and the finish of it. I am not sure how durable this action finish will be and time will only tell. If you’re someone that likes optional extras on a rifle the 404 will certainly tick many boxes.
Build Quality: 8/10 for the price
Value for money: 8/10
Overall verdict: 7.5/10
- Ammunition: RWS 165grain Hit and RWS 136 grain green. Importer: Ruag
- Sound Moderator: Macc Tecc. Importer: Edgar Brothers
- Sauer Elegance 404 in .308 cal RRP £3,420. Importer: Blaser Sporting
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